Preparing mobile backhaul for 5G

Arthur Cole
Smart cars with 5G logos

One of the more significant aspects of the transition to 5G communications is the aggregate network that will backhaul traffic to centralized processing resources. 5G traffic is expected to be substantial, after all, which means it will be necessary to upgrade network infrastructure from the edge to the mainframe and back.

The challenge, however, is in knowing where to boost aggregate bandwidth, and how. It stands to reason that urban areas will likely see more 5G traffic than rural – everything from autonomous cars to smart sneakers. At the same time, many of these new services will require far higher levels of reliability and availability than most mobile network operators (MNOs) are used to, which means equipment at the cell site will have to be increasingly sophisticated, even intelligent, as the market evolves.

Expanding bandwidth

Currently, a typical cellular tower supports 1Gbit/s connectivity to mobile client devices and 10Gbit/s backhaul. With 5G, however, we can expect 10Gbit/s or even 25Gbit/s on the client side and backhaul requirements of 100Gbit/s.

Clearly, the need to upgrade the world’s cellular infrastructure is upon us, but there are ways to do this quickly and without breaking the budget. One way is to future-proof both the client side and the backhaul capabilities of tower sites by introducing seamless upgrade capabilities into radio base stations. MNOs will have to gauge their bandwidth needs carefully as the 5G era unfolds, but the more flexible the hardware at the initial deployment stage, the easier it will be to accommodate expanding data loads as more services come online.

Another way to future-proof the 5G network is to keep as much data off of the aggregate network as possible. This is most easily done by edge processing, which not only provides the lowest latency response to the user but offloads a large chunk of the 5G traffic from the backhaul network. In addition to processing of certain user data, the edge can also take on numerous networking responsibilities, such as hosting VNFs, enabling encryption and firewall protection, automated testing and performance monitoring.

As well, the radio base station can be outfitted with enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) capability to support data-driven use cases that require high data across broad geographic footprints, as well as ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) for mission-critical apps like autonomous vehicles and remote surgery, and massive machine-type communications (mMTC) for highly populated IoT environments.

A better gateway

Perhaps the most straightforward way to implement these tools is through the cell site gateway. The newest generations, like ADVA’s FSP 150-XG118Pro, are designed from the bottom up with 5G in mind, with particular consideration given to the needs of backhaul. Not only does the device support a smooth transition from 1Gbit/s to 10Gbit/s, it meets all the demands for URLLC and other standards and has the ability to host VNFs at the edge, giving the network operator as close to a risk-free upgrade as possible.

For backhaul, the ADVA FSP 150-XG118Pro links seamlessly to the FSP 150-XG480 aggregation platform that provides carrier-grade aggregation of multiple 10Gbit/s streams in a compact footprint. The system enables up to 800Gbit/s with multiple port configurations accommodating both 10Gbit/s and 25Gbit/s  connectivity.

For mobile operators, this provides wide-band connectivity to any fiber-based DWDM network, and from there to carrier services, multi-tenant enterprise and business users, as well as residential fixed-access environments.

5G is more than an upgrade to existing LTE networks. It represents a new level of complexity for both wireless and wired infrastructure. And if current predictions are correct, it will not only provide better, faster service for today’s applications, but spawn an entirely new generation of apps that will drive all manner of economic activity that doesn’t even exist today.

As such, 5G is too important to get wrong. As uncertain as the future of mobile connectivity may seem at the moment, operators at least have the comfort of knowing that there is a seamless, predictable upgrade path when it comes to both the client and aggregation networks.

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